Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

Hope everyone is having a fabulous New Year wherever they are in the world!! I'm here in Berlin celebrating with some au pair friends at the end of my Christmas trip. 

Berlin at New Years. Can you see me?
Gutes neues Jahr!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Day trip: Liechtenstein

The Saturday before the trip we spent the afternoon down by the lake. It was surprisingly warm for early November but we managed to do some drawing and people watching throughout the afternoon followed by the wine boats at night. The wine boats were very cool. We got free tickets thanks to the ticket person and my SIL/brother. Once inside there are several different boats set up where you can go and taste several different red, white, rose, ice, and sparkling wines. It was a great evening with friends as we tried wines from around the world like Portugal, Argentina, South Africa, France, Italy, Switzerland etc. etc.
trying out some of the wines!l-r Me, Michelle, Whitney, and Shelley (photo: courtesy of Michelle)

Sunday we decided to take a day trip. One of the things I love about Switzerland is that it doesn't take long to get out of the country. One can get to about 5 different countries within a few hours.  We decided to take advantage of it and headed to the 6th smallest country in the world. Liechtenstein.  There isn't much to it. We had to take a bus to get in because there is no train that makes a stop in Liechtenstein.

Nicole, Michelle and Whitney on the bus to Liechtenstein!

Once we got there we decided to head to the post museum. Free is one of our favorite things as au pairs. We had to see what it was about!
Lots of fake statues like this....

and drawers full of mail like this

After that we headed to the only major attraction in the city in the Liechtenstein. The castle.   Because the Prince still lives there you can't go in it but merely walk around it.  There was a guard at the gates making sure we didn't try any funny business.
walking up to the castle we decided to take some of the harder paths...
The castle!
All 5 of us by the gate of the castle. L-r Zoe, Nicole, Whitney, Me and Michelle

After that we stopped at a cafe for a rest. One thing I have learned in Europe. Coffee in the afternoon is almost a necessity.No matter what we always stop at a cafe to do some people watching.  Probably one of my favorite parts of Europe is everyone's need to SIT DOWN for a cup of coffee. Not a coffee on the go or in the drive-thru but actually sitting down in a cafe to get a cup of coffee and enjoy the scenery around you.

Another Great weekend!

*All pictures (with the exception of the wine boats) courtesy of Zoe!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


The weekend of November 6th and 7th (I know I am really behind!) I headed off to Salzburg with two of my friends, Nicole and Crystal. We decided in our excitement that an overnight train would be perfect for our trip in order to cut out a night's stay in Salzburg and still have a full two days. Looking back? probably not one of our brightest ideas. We arrived fresh faced and excited at 4:15am. Did you know? In Salzburg nothing much is open at 4:15 am. Instead we sat in a smelly compartment for 3 hours having a conversation which none of us remember.
Nicole was not happy to be awake this early

at 7:15 we decided to have a look around and managed to find a grocery store open 7:30. Lucky for us! We managed to have a nice breakfast and lots of coffee before heading out to the....wait for it.....SOUND OF MUSIC TOUR!! I know you are all incredibly jealous. This was a 4 hour tour that took us to all the places they filmed including some of the lakes around Salzburg. Probably one of the most fantastic tours I have taken. It was chock full of remaking the movie and singing. pure JOY! We got a lot of background on the real Von Trapp family and the filming lies that took place. (like the fact that running from the hill to the abbey in the beginning would have taken more than 3 A LOT more.) Overall probably my favorite part of the trip!
Nicole and I in front of the glass gazebo from the 16 going on 17 scene
In front of the pond where the kids fell out of the canoe. Not the same house though.  Tricky Hollywood!  
Our tour bus. Oh YES. I know you're jealous!

On the bus. Note the people behind me. Mostly we had older couples.
Nicole and Crystal with our tour guide out in the lakes surrounding Salzburg. 
reenacting in Mirabell Gardens. I tried to find a movie picture but couldn't So just imagine it.
Picture with the gnome again from the Sound of Music.

After that we headed to the Mirabell gardens where we reenacted more scenes from the movie (clips to come) and walked about the beautiful gardens. including seeing the gnome garden. After taking full advantage of all the Sound of Music photo opportunities we decided to head into the city for a look around. One of the famous streets of Salzburg is Getreidgasse. It is a major shopping street with one of the coolest parts being all the signs for the shops.

see the old fashioned signs? Even Claire's is a darker color (although you can't really tell here)

Fun fact: McDonald's tried to put up their golden arches as the sign but the place was boycotted for 3 weeks until Mickey D's replaced the sign.

This street is also where Mozart's Geburtshaus (birthplace) is located. After some wandering through the shops and getting a few postcards we met up with our couch-surfing friend and had a quick stop back at his place before heading to one of the highlights of the trip a concert in the Salzburg fortress.
Nicole with our host Georg

I had wanted to have one experience of Mozart's music in his birthplace and the fortress was just perfect. It was candlelit and we listen to a Haydn quartet followed by a Mozart clarinet quintet and then a Mozart quartet. Overall very good and a really cool experience in the fortress.
The fortress where we had our concert.

the stage area of our concert

Sunday was filled with more wandering of the city. We went to Mozarts Wohnsthaus. The girls were not as excited as I was I don't think....

Not excited AT ALL

So excited I thought it deserved a jumping picture!
Mozart and I are pretty tight. NBD

They had a lot of Mozart's work and about the lifestyle and his development as an artist. After a bit of a sightseeing overload we ended our trip walking around the city and having coffee in one of the most famous cafes in Salzburg, Tomaselli's before catching our train back to Zurich.
We had a coffee break on the balcony overlooking the square. Nice people watching!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Munich Part 2 (a month late)

So back to Munich. Wednesday was filled with the Olympics and BMWs. I was able to head up the olympicturm (olympic tower) where a rock and roll museum is also located. There I I took the elevator up the 805 meters and got some great views of the city including places I hadn't yet been to that I was looking forward to seeing.
I was really excited to be there!!!

After that I headed to take a look at their Rock and Roll museum also at the top of the olympic tower (why? I have absolutely no clue) to see what interesting facts on singers they were able to dig up. Sadly, nothing of note was really there. EXCEPT THIS:
Is that a Britney Spears plane ticket?

Can you see it? A Britney Spears plane ticket. A really hot item, I think. I then took the elevator back down and headed to the BMW museum. Now, normally I am not one who is into cars. Sure there are nice cars but I'm not one that is really into them at all. I decided to check it out anyways and actually saw some pretty cool stuff. They talked a lot about the history of the car and what they produce.  I saw the different models over the years, including the 007 car used in one of the James Bond movies. My favorite part by far in the museum was the art cars, which were designed by various artists including  Andy Warhol, Matazo Kayama, Frank Stella, and the most recent one Jeff Koons.  These started in 1975 and use both racing cars and regular cars. Full list here
The car done by Andy Warhol

After the museum I pretended I was rich enough and headed to the show room to check out the current models ( and a few older ones).
Car I want to have

Car I will actually have

Thursday I headed to the Nymphenburg Palace on the outskirts of Munich. A beautiful palace that used to be the summer home of the Bavarian rulers. 
Pretty grand. This is only part of the building. I wraps all the way around a garden

Today it is the home of a Duke of Bavaria as well as a chancery (Wikipedia: a type of building that houses a diplomatic mission or embassy.)  I went inside the house but a lot of the paintings were blacked out from being destroyed in WWII. The furniture was just so-so and I got out of there pretty fast to take a walk on the grounds which were pretty stunning. There were a few different buildings on the walk I took that had been built by later Bavarian rulers which was interesting to see in the contrast between the architecture. 
This building was actually built to look like Ruins which I thought an interesting take for architecture.

I then headed to the carriage house to see the old carriages that had been used for the rulers. There were quite a few that reminded me of Cinderella's carriage (Thank goodness got those right!) as well as some small sleds for children and an old fashioned merry-go-round (it was unclear how that worked...).
See? I told you. CINDERELLA!

After a morning at the Palace I was ready for my last tour. The Olympic soccer stadium! I was strangely excited to be taking this tour. And although I contemplated taking a walk on the Plexiglas roof of the stadium my fear of heights and expensive tours kept me on the ground.
the tour I thought about taking but didn't.

Olympic stadium!
We walked through the VIP rooms,  the locker rooms and onto the field during our tour. My accomplishment of the tour was that I had taken the entire tour in German. A major feat for me, when I had only taken one month long class! The tour guide was Canadian however, and after bonding over the fact that we were both from North America decided to over-share on her life and the fact that the reason she was there was because of an unplanned pregnancy....I did NOT see that one coming! Overall a very successful tour!
see? I was glad I took it!

Friday was spent mostly wandering the city as I had completed most of the items on the top ten check list and at this point was museum'd and artifacted out. I managed to do a little more walking around the city before heading home to Zurich on Friday afternoon.


Monday, November 1, 2010

Munich part 1

I'm doing my trip to Munich in two parts because frankly I don't want to tire you out from reading a ridiculously long post This was about 2 weeks ago ( I know I'm suuuuuper behind!). I did quite a bit during the week I was there. The worst part was doing it by myself. Now I don't mind hanging out by myself occasionally and for short periods of time but this trip was me by myself all week (well except for dinner with the family I was staying with) I had to go to Munich for the week to visit some family of my host family. I got there Sunday night and stayed til Friday night. Besides the occasional picking up of the kids and making dinner twice, I was mostly on my own to do things.

Monday! I got up early (and by early i mean 7:45 because that is about an hour and a half before I normally wake up every day.Yes i do get 9 full hours of sleep every night. Disgusted? I am and I LOVE it!) I decided to head to the main platz Marienplatz. Here I got the top 10 things to do in Munich map from the tourist office and wandered about the area poking into shops and figuring out what my best plan would be for the week. The top ten list was extremely helpful in planning the week and I was able to narrow down where I wanted to go. The good part was that I could be pretty relaxed about the whole week and didn't feel the need to pull out my parents expertise in seeing as much as possible in as little time as possible (Eurotrip '98, oh yes mom and dad that trip will never be forgotten!)I went into the Frauenkirche, and went up in the tower. I saw the market place that was near Marienplatz and ate some weisswurst (never again, one of the worse meals of the trip). This was a day mostly to get my bearings and just be able to wander and see a little bit of architecture along the way.

view of Marienplatz from the ground

Inside the church- love the ceiling!

the view of Marienplatz from Frauenkirche

View from the FrauenKirche the mustard yellow church is the residence palace area

The Frauenkirche towers. Sadly one was being renovated!

Tuesday: I went into the residence palace and around the gardens near there as well as a beautiful old (obviously) church which had no stained glass and all the sculptures were carved into the stone (As seen below). The gardens were really picturesque and it was cool to walk around the area. I also tried desperately to get into the Munich opera house for a tour, but unfortunately they didn't have tours available until Saturday which was after I was leaving. In the museum there were lots of furniture and usual household items but what was interesting was how affected it had been by WWII. The descriptions often said that the ceiling or certain other paintings were destroyed in WWII and so they had very little to help put together a room. Stuff was also switched between this palace and the Nymhenburg palace (I'll talk about there in part II)

view of the park near the residence

residence kirche really really beautiful

note all the carvings and the non stained glass windows.

I lit a candle for my grandfather that recently passed away. It was too beautiful a church not to.

This is the only picture i have inside the residence palace. A really cool banquet room filled with so much art!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A few firsts: Elephants and Freeze Mobs

Before I get into what I have been up to this past week in Munich, I thought I would talk about the past two weekends I have had. Last weekend after working on Saturday morning celebrating my host dad's birthday (I made arroz con pollo for it and a cake. Surprisingly both turned out good!) I headed off to the Kinder zoo to see some animals and ride some elephants!

Nicole, Shelley and I on the elephant photo from Nicole

One of my friends, Nicole, has a bucket list and one of the things to cross off her list was a horn for a horse to make a unicorn. This was the result:

Ignore my face, the horse was a little jumpy...

We saw some other animals and a sea lion show (all in German. the music choices were quite enjoyable though!) All in all we had a good time despite the rain and cold.

This past weekend, after I got back from Munich,I got the opportunity to participate in my first Flashmob. For those of you that don't know what this is, it's where a large group of people get together and freeze for 5 whole minutes. Let me tell you, 5 minutes is a long time when you can't move. I don't think I have ever been able to sit still for 5 whole minutes! If you still don't know what it looks like you might want to get an idea from this one in Grand Central and then this one that I participated in in Zurich I'm in it at about 1:08 or so. black jacket and pink ipod! It was fun to participate in and glad we got to do it! Another first in Switzerland.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Perspective on slowing down

I have officially been here 2 months. I never EVER thought I would be doing this. Living the slow life. My friends here who are au pairs talk a lot about how this is our life (whether negative: i.e. I can't believe that I have to take care of THESE kids, or positive: I can't believe that I only have to take care of these kids! you see?) Our greatest worry is where our next trip will be or what time the last train is before we can't get home anymore.
I am generally working 30-35 hours a week. Not even a full time job. The rest of my time? I have spent wandering the city, drinking LOTS of coffee and tea, reading (I have read about 10 books since I have been here. It has been GLORIOUS. So glorious I am looking into getting a Kindle to enable my addiction. All book suggestions are welcome!), watching entirely too much online tv to get my American culture, and doing a little singing here and there (More on that in a later post) It's crazy to think that my life for the next 10 months will consist of me learning German and teaching kids songs I learned in Elementary school (Miss Mary Mack, anyone? Miss Suzy had a Steamboat?) as well as English.
Really it's time to explore Europe, which I hope to fully take advantage of. We'll see where I get to. I have made a list of places I want to head to before I leave (a very long list which I will spare you of.) I am currently planning a trip to Salzburg with a couple of other au pairs (Sound of Music tour!) and perhaps a trip back to Milan at the end of November.
The weirdest thing for me thus far has been not being constantly busy between 8am and midnight every day. No homework, no outside activities (until recently!). It's all a little strange!
More to update later this week about what I have been up to.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Day Trip to Basel

Last weekend, I hit up Basel yet again, only this time armed with an agenda and a few friends. We were headed to the Andy Warhol exhibit of his early drawings and then 2 friends and I were heading to Olin and Nikki's to make dinner!

I met up with about 6 au pairs for the day. We took the train at around 10:15 and met up with another au pair friend who was already in Basel for the weekend, Angela. From there Angela, who lived in Basel for a year a couple years ago, took us on a small tour of Kleine Basel before we headed to the exhibit. she told some history of Basel which was nice to get a bit of background. We then headed to the Basel Art Museum. The exhibit although small was an interesting look at the advertisements that Warhol did as well as his early drawings of Campbell's Chicken soup. (Kate Lutes if you read this- there was the 4 Elvis and the 2 Elvis painting. made me think of you)

We then headed to a cafe area and proceeded to chat in true au pair fashion for the next 2.5 hours. Nicole, Michelle and I then left to make dinner. Michelle and I were ready to make a nice pasta dinner with Garlic bread and salad. Nicole on the other hand decided the best dinner would be cereal. With Milk. We decided to agree to disagree and let Nicole buy her cereal. (There was lots of judgement on my part though... haha) Some pictures from the day:

Most of the au pairs that I went with. I think we are only missing Nicole in this one.
L-r Crystal, Michelle, Angela and Merrin

Nicole had never seen a squash this big...She was really excited if you can't tell

Eating our yummy dinner! (Note Nicole's bowl of Cereal...)

Nikki and Olin joined later for dinner and we all enjoyed ourselves immensely (I think?), until...I realized the time. It was 11:30 and the last train was at 12:15. We made it there with a few minutes to spare forgetting the fact that we had to actually get home from the Zurich Train Station. We arrive at 1:20am. In Switzerland, almost everything closes on Sunday. We didn't realize this included night train's and buses...We ended up taking a cab back to my apt. because luckily I live apart from the family and am able to host people when needed. They had to get up at 445am to catch the first train back to their respective houses to start work in time. It was an experience that I have definitely learned from. Always check how to get home before the last minute!